11 English language requirements at Master’s level
The level of proficiency (or competence) in the use of English required at Master’s level may vary by programme, and you should always check your intended qualification details for specific requirements. However, broadly speaking, if English is not your first language, you will need to provide evidence that your spoken and written command of English is adequate for the programme for which you are applying. This is to ensure that language is not a barrier to your academic progress or social engagement and integration with other students during your studies.
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS-Academic Version) is frequently used to gauge proficiency in the use of Academic English. This system tests performance in written and spoken language skills across four categories: (i) task achievement, (ii) coherence and cohesion, (iii) lexical resource, and (iv) grammatical range and accuracy. The ‘typical’ requirement at Master’s level is to have achieved an overall test score of 6.5 (65%) or higher, and usually not less than a score of 5.5 in any category in this test. The IELTS band descriptors are provided in Table 2, for reference. Table 3 shows a comparison of the IELTS score (equivalent requirements) with other formal English language testing systems commonly accepted by higher education institutions in the UK. However, you should be aware that different courses may require different levels of achievement in specific qualifications, and you should check the requirements for your intended programme.
If English is your native language, or you have demonstrated proficiency by completing your first degree in English, you would normally be expected to be able to operate at a level that is suitable for transition to Master’s study. This would imply that you have ‘effective’ to ‘full’ operational command of the language. If you are uncertain, then do check with your institution.
Full descriptors for writing (tasks 1 and 2) and reading are available on the.
Table 2 IELTS band descriptors (summary)
|9||Expert user||Has full operational command of the language: appropriate, accurate and fluent with complete understanding.|
|8||Very good user||Has full operational command of the language with only occasional unsystematic inaccuracies; misunderstandings occur in unfamiliar situations; handles complex detailed argumentation well.|
|7||Good user||Has operational command of the language, though with occasional inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings in some situations; generally handles complex language well and understands detailed reasoning.|
|6||Competent user||Has generally effective command of the language despite some inaccuracies, inappropriacies and misunderstandings; can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in familiar situations.|
|5||Modest user||Has partial command of the language, coping with overall meaning in most situations, though is likely to make many mistakes; should be able to handle basic communication in own field.|
|4||Limited user||Basic competence is limited to familiar situations; has frequent problems in understanding and expression. Is not able to use complex language.|
|3||Extremely limited user||Conveys and understands only general meaning in very familiar situations; frequent breakdowns in communication occur.|
|2||Intermittent user||No real communication is possible except for the most basic information using isolated words or short formulae in familiar situations and to meet immediate needs; has great difficulty in understanding spoken and written English.|
|1||Non-user||Essentially has no ability to use the language beyond possibly a few isolated words.|
|0||Test not attempted||No assessable information provided.|
Table 3 IELTS equivalent testing system scores for comparison
|CEFR||Component||IELTS-A||CPE and CAE||PTE-A||TOEFL-IBT|